Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Mr. Evans's Cushions": More Secrets of the Big Hair of the 1770s.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Two of our most popular posts of the summer dealt with the towering hair styles of the 1770s and how these styles are being recreated by apprentice mantua-maker Abby Cox and the other ladies of the Margaret Hunter shop in Colonial Williamsburg. When I spotted this 1779 advertisement, left, from a London newspaper online this morning, I knew I'd have to share it here on the blog.

Although this advertisement is over two hundred years old, it has all the marketing tricks the beauty trade still uses. There's the name brand of EDWARD EVANS, there in caps so it can't be missed. And why is his name so important? Because it carries the endorsement of a mega-celebrity - he's the Hairdresser to the Queen, which was about as celebrated as a celebrity could be in Georgian England. (He might even as skilled as this hairdresser, lower right, who is forced to balance on a stool to reach the top of his client's hair.)

Mr. Evans is offering hairdressing cushions that are apparently the new, new, newest thing, and promises that ladies will be able to achieve the latest styles with ease and speed. He knows, because his products have often been imitated, but never equaled by his competitors. Then Mr. Evans finishes off with a promise that he has the lowest prices. If there had been infomercials in 1770, Edward Evans would have been a tonsorial king of late night TV - the Chaz Dean of hair cushions.

And yet as detailed as this advertisement is, it still leaves so much unsaid. What made these particular cushions so suitable for summer wear? How large were they? What fabric was used so they didn't slip from the head or require hair pins? Of course, Mr. Evans's ladies would have known all this, just as their modern counterparts know exactly how a Bumpit works. But oh, what we Nerdy History (and Historical Hair) people would give for even one illustration to make everything clear!

Many thanks to Neal Hurst for spotting this advertisement for us!

Above: Advertisement, Public Advertiser (London, England), Saturday, June 26 1779; Issue 13952.
Below: The preposterous head dress, or, The Feather'd Lady, published by M. Darly, London, 1776. From the collection of the Walpole Library, Yale University.


Sarah said...

one is tempted to speculate that to be light weight and cool for summer use, the cushions may have been made of wicker, straw or withy for a light construction... rather than cushions stuffed with anything. Worth keeping an eye out in the ads.

Catherine Curzon said...

My bet would be straw or similar too; I'd love to see such a cushion in action.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Hmm...I like that image of the "cushions" being more like woven baskets for summer. Makes sense. I know that later Edwardian ladies used donut-shaped forms made from woven horsehair to pouf up their hair.

Sarah said...

I'm going through newspapers at the moment [for other research] but I'll keep an eye out...

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks, Sarah. Abby Cox from CW has been hunting specifically for hair references, and she says Mr. Evens advertised a LOT. Who knows what may turn up? :)

Meg said...

I'm just thinking about how awesome their neck muscles were to hold all of that up!

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